Molecular biologist and communist humanist J. D. Bernal died on May 10th in 1971

Published on May 10, 2024, by  Il Grido del Popolo©️

John Desmond Bernal (always known as J. D. Bernal) was born in Nenagh, Ireland, on 10th May 1901. He was educated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

In 1923 Bernal joined the Communist Party. Greatly influenced by the work of John Haldane, the two men joined Julian Huxley, John Cockcroft and sixteen other British scientists on a visit to the Soviet Union in 1931. While there they had meetings with Nickolai Bukharin and other government leaders.

Bernel’s research helped developed modern crystallography and he was a founder of molecular biology. He eventually became professor of physics at Cambridge University and in 1932 worked on the development of X-ray crystallography with Dorothy Hodgkin. Over the next four years Hodgkin and Bernal produced 12 joint crystallographic papers. Bernal left the Communist Party in 1934 but he continued to be active in left-wing politics.

In 1937 Bernal became professor of crystallography at Birkbeck College.

Among his many published works are The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1929), The Social Function of Science (1939), Marx And Science (1952), Science in History (1954), World without War (1958) and The Origin of Life (1967).

As a historic fact we owe the development of science, as of other aspects of civilization,
to the operation of class societies. It would be pointless to consider how else science
could have grown, but stupid to assume that, for no other reason, it must continue under
the same auspices. Class societies have left us some very fine things, but very bad ways
of getting and using them.
” – J. D. Bernal